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Matthew Exley

Date of birth: 1864
Date of death: 1942
Area: Brotherton
Regiment: Royal Engineers
Family information: Husband of Frances.
Rank: Sergeant
Service number: 121673

War Service

No records are available to give any indication of Matthew’s WW1 experiences except for his Medal Index card (MIC). This shows that he was given the service number 121673 and that he was enlisted into the Royal Engineers as a sapper. A fuller description of the role of a sapper is given in the account for Walter Clegg who was later to become Matthew’s son-in-law as he married his daughter Florence.
Matthew would have been about 50 years old when he enlisted and lied about his age in order to be accepted. It is remarkable that a man of his age and one who had worked as a coalminer was still fit enough to pass a medical examination when so many miners half his age could not. It is even more illuminating as to his character that he could have easily not enlisted and would never have been conscripted.
His Medal Index Card tells us that he qualified not only for the British War and Victory Medals but the 1914/15 Star thus having the trio affectionately known as Pip Squeak and Wilfred.
The Medal Index Card also tells us that he qualified for the Star by entering a ‘theatre of war’ when he disembarked in France on the 29th September 1915.
Furthermore it shows that he attained the rank of Sergeant which again shows that he was accepted as a man of some bearing and perhaps, because of his maturity, a steady hand and something of a father figure to younger sappers.

Family Life

Matthew was born in Whittington, not far from Chesterfield in Derbyshire in 1864.
The earliest record of him is in the 1881 Census when he was resident in Church Street, Whittington and employed as a ‘Miner’. The family structure is somewhat complex in that the head of the family is Thomas Webster and his wife is Clara Webster.
Also in the family were four other children - George Exley born 1866, Henry Webster (1868), George R. Locock (1874) and Fanny Locock (1877). Thomas Webster had married Clara in 1878 having previously been married to Sarah Exley. They married in 1866 and Sarah died in 1870.
There is no indication of who was father to Matthew and George although in the census in the column stating relationship to head of household both are labelled as ‘son’. This differs from the two Locock children who are ‘step’ children.
In 1891, Matthew had moved away from the family home and was a ‘boarder’ in the home of a Matthew Moxow in Station Road, Chapeltown near Ecclesfield north of Sheffield. His landlord is described as a Pork Butcher’ whilst Matthew is employed in some capacity to do with ‘boilers’.
In the second quarter of 1894 Matthew married Frances Ann Renton of Brotherton. The circumstances of their meeting is not known but may have been due to Matthew moving into the area for work as by 1901 he was a ‘Coalminer - Hewer’ again. He and his family were living in Pasture Lane, Brotherton. There were four children in the household - Florence (born 1894), Dorothy Ann (1896), John R. (1898) and Mary Ann (1900).
Next door to the Exleys was the household of Joe Renton and his siblings Solomon and Mary Ann. These were brothers and sister of Florence. The Rentons were a Brotherton Family with Florence’s father William being born in 1849 and the son of John (born 1808) and Frances (Fanny) born in 1911 in Brotherton. John’s parents were William and Elizabeth Renton.
By 1911 the Exleys were living in Turner’s Yard. Matthew was still working ‘down the pit’ and the family had grown with the addition of - Lily (1902), Ivy (1905), Maud Anne (1907) and Olive Edith (1909). Information in the census states that the couple had 10 children but 2 had died. There is a little confusion with regard to John as he is John R. in 1901 but John William in 1911, however, I believe they are the same otherwise the numbers do not correlate with the information given.
Death records for Pontefract show that a William Renton Exley was born and died in 1897 and given the middle name would almost certainly be one of the two children who had not survived. In 1904 the death of a Lucy Exley (born 1904) was also recorded in Pontefract. Again, this was most probably the daughter of Matthew as she and William Renton were the only infants/children by the name of Exley to be recorded in the district between 1890 and 1910.
After the War Matthew returned home to Brotherton after being placed on the reserve list , meaning that he could be recalled if required.
Matthew died in 1942 and Frances in 1950.

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